Melbourne – Victoria 2018

GRN 2.4% vs ALP

Incumbent MP
Ellen Sandell, since 2014.

Central suburbs of Melbourne. The electorate of Melbourne covers the Melbourne CBD and the inner-city suburbs of East Melbourne, Docklands, Carlton, Parkville, North Melbourne and Kensington. The electorate covers most of the City of Melbourne on the northern side of the Yarra River, and a small part of the City of Yarra.

There was a district with the name “Melbourne” in the original Victorian Legislative Assembly at the 1856 election, before being abolished in 1859. It was recreated in 1889 as a single member district that has existed ever since. The seat has a long history of being held by the ALP, who held it continously from 1908 until 2014.

The recreated Melbourne district was won by Geoffrey Carter in 1889, and was won in 1900 by Labor candidate Edward Findley. Findley was expelled in 1901 for seditious libel after publishing an Irish article criticising the King in a radical union newspaper that he edited. He lost the following by-election, but went on to serve in the Senate from 1903 to 1917 and again from 1922 to 1928.

The 1901 by-election was won by Conservative candidate James Boyd, who supported conservative state governments, including serving as a minister from 1907 to 1908, when he stepped down. He was elected as a federal Liberal MP in 1913 and served until his defeat in 1919.

Melbourne was won by Labor candidate Alexander Rogers in 1908. He held the seat until 1924. He was succeeded by Thomas Hayes, who held the seat until 1955. That year, he left the ALP and joined the new ALP (Anti-Communist), the precursor to the Democratic Labor Party, but was defeated at the 1955 election.

The seat was then held by the ALP’s Arthur Clarey from 1955 until 1972. In 1972, Melbourne was won by the ALP’s Barry Jones. He held the seat until 1977, when he resigned to run for the federal electorate of Lalor, which he held until his retirement in 1998. He served as a minister in the Hawke government and went on to serve as National President of the ALP.

The seat was then filled by Keith Remington from 1977 to 1988, and Neil Cole from 1988 to 1999.

In 1999, Melbourne was won by Bronwyn Pike. She served as a minister for the entirety of the Bracks and Brumby governments. The seat of Melbourne was considered very safe in 1999, with Pike winning 63.8% of the two-party vote. In 2002, the Greens first stood in the seat, running Dr Richard di Natale, who polled 24% of the primary vote and reducing Pike’s margin to 1.9%, which remained almost exactly the same in 2006. Di Natale went on to stand for the Senate in 2007 and was elected to the Senate at the 2010 federal election.

The Greens had come close to winning in 2002 and 2006 on the back of preferences from the Liberal Party. In 2010 the Greens stood barrister and human rights advocate Brian Walters. At the 2010 federal election, the Liberal Party continued their track record of preferencing the Greens ahead of the Labor Party in Labor-Greens inner-city marginal seats in Sydney and Melbourne, which saw Adam Bandt elected as the Greens MP for the federal seat of Melbourne.

Bandt’s election, and the ensuing hung parliament which saw the Greens in the balance of power in the Senate and Bandt sharing the balance of power in the House of Representatives, triggered a backlash in the Liberal Party. In the Victorian state election three months later, the Liberal Party reversed their position on preferencing the Greens. In the inner-city Labor-Greens marginal seats of Melbourne, Richmond, Northcote and Brunswick, the Liberal Party preferenced the ALP ahead of the Greens.

In the seat of Melbourne, Pike suffered a swing of almost 9% on primary votes, with 4.5% going to the Greens and 5.9% going to the Liberal Party. This resulted in the ALP on 35.7%, the Greens on 31.9% and the Liberal Party on 28%. Despite the swing away from the ALP and towards the Greens and the Liberal Party, the Liberal preference decision helped Pike increase her two-party margin over the Greens from 1.9% to 6.2%.

Overall, the Liberal-National coalition won a narrow victory over the ALP, with 45 seats to the Coalition and 43 seats to Labor, with no seats going to independents or minor parties. Pike has followed the trend of other senior Labor MPs John Brumby and Rob Hulls in resigning from her seat, triggering a by-election.

The 2012 by-election was won by Labor’s Jennifer Kanis in a very close result. Kanis won the seat by a 1.5% margin after preferences over Greens candidate Cathy Oke. Oke topped the poll on primary votes but Kanis benefited from stronger preference flows and won.

The Greens struck back at the 2014 general election, with Greens candidate Ellen Sandell defeating Kanis.


The Greens are far from safe in Melbourne. If the Liberal Party does not run it will help the Greens achieve victory here.

2014 result

Ellen Sandell Greens 15,33341.4+8.9
Jennifer Kanis Labor 10,83029.3-5.0
Ed Huntingford Liberal 8,91324.1-4.7
Kate ElliottAnimal Justice8022.2+2.2
Neville ChisholmAustralian Christians4911.3+1.3
Tehiya UmerVoice For The West3250.9+0.9
Kerry SutherlandFamily First3060.8+0.8

2014 two-candidate-preferred result

Ellen Sandell Greens 19,40152.4+7.1
Jennifer Kanis Labor 17,59947.6-7.1

2014 two-party-preferred result

Jennifer Kanis Labor 26,07170.5+7.0
Ed Huntingford Liberal 10,92929.5-7.0

Booth breakdown

Booths in Melbourne have been divided into three parts: Central, East and South. The CBD is included in “South”.

The Greens won a majority of the two-candidate-preferred vote (against Labor) in all three areas, ranging from 51.3% in the north-west to 52.6% in the south.

The Liberal Party came third, with a primary vote ranging from 18% in the north-west to 30.6% in the south.

Voter groupLIB prim %GRN 2CP %Total votes% of votes
Other votes26.252.68,37722.6

Election results in Richmond at the 2014 Victorian state election
Toggle between two-candidate-preferred votes and Liberal primary votes.

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  1. Are Labor going to try here? Seems like tilting at windmills.

    Ellen Sandell with incumbency advantage probably impregnable judging by how Bandt and NSW Greens lower house members perform when defending a seat.

  2. This will be a challenging election period for the Greens in Melbourne, at both state and federal level as we often see safe seats gradually drift back towards their usual voting patterns within two to three elections, so if the Greens can hold both state and federal seats comfortably then that will be a strong result for the Greens, although the Greens will face a bigger test federally as the ALP have been in opposition since 2013.

    The ALP will be wanting to avoid the growing trend of coming third in traditional areas like Richmond as that will make it harder for them to regain this seat.

  3. Bennee

    Jamie Parker in Balmain came close to losing in 2015, in an election where voters hadn’t really forgiven Labor. He was mainly saved by the OPV system preventing Lib>ALP preference flows. I wouldn’t count him as safe.

    Bandt is but a single example.

    I think Labor have enough hope for the seat; the swing against Greens in Batman (including in very “Melbourne” like Clifton Hill), and a poor Greens result in the mayoral byelection. Sandell has far fewer big ticket issues than Bandt to motivate anti ALP protest voters, and Labor can point to a voting record that’s more Liberal friendly than the federal one, just as a byproduct of who’s in opposition.

    Predicting a Green retain but it won’t be a walk.

  4. John I’m talking about the primary vote because that’s what is relevant here.

    Jamie Parker was pretty much notionally losing Balmain in the 2015 election due to the redistribution and therefore likely change in exclusion order of the Labor and Liberal party, but with incumbency his primary vote increased substantially (despite no swing towards the Greens statewide) and he won despite that.

    That’s all I’m referring too. The evidence points towards the Greens getting extremely strong incumbency effects like independents and minor parties traditionally do (the Green incumbent data points are only in left leaning seats though, I’m interested in seeing in true marginal like Prahran).

  5. John, The Green primary in Clifton Hill was well over 50% and close to 60% in Westgarth almost twice as much as Labor even though Labor had a dream run in Batman, the likes of which they may never experience again.

  6. Zia, it would be incredibly naive to assume that Melbourne is an easy hold just because of how well the Greens do in this part federally. Bandt is a personally popular local MP and has a very high nationwide profile, not to mention in a highly formally educated (degree and postgrad) electorate like Melbourne I imagine that voters don’t vote out of habit, and may change their vote depending on the local issues or local candidate (see how in Batman, there were huge anti-Labor swings in 2016 due to the candidate, but a lot returned due to a more likeable candidate in the 2018 byelection). A good example of the disconnect between state and fed is the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, where state seats tend to be quite marginal but more readily vote Liberal at the federal level.

    Even looking across to Richmond, the Greens should have won it in 2014 if you simply look at how the electorate voted in 2013 federal (strong swings to Bandt), so there’s more factors than just people moving permanently to the Greens.

    Honestly, I’d lean more towards a Green retain, but don’t count your chickens.

  7. The tide for the Greens may be somewhat currently on the way out (i.e Batman + state and federal polling) but for them to lose this would mean they will have not only lost the furniture, but the whole house as well.

    Plus, the ALP standing the same candidate who was defeated at the last state election kind of shows how seriously they are (not) taking this seat this time around.

  8. Unless the Liberal change their mind and run here, they are throwing away the chance to be in second place.

  9. The Age is reporting today that this is ‘within reach’ for Labor.

    I tend to doubt it, it would be a disaster for the Greens if they lost.

    If they’re in trouble here then their shots at Richmond and Brunswick would be decidedly shaky. Time will tell, but I just can’t see how federal and state votes could be different enough for the Greens to lose here.

  10. I see reports that the ALP think they can pick this seat up. I see this as a possibility. The Greens sometimes make the mistake of assuming that younger professionals will just fall into their lap, and while that demographic does lend towards the Greens but it isn’t a lock and a common feature of safe seats is that they tend to drift back towards their usual voting pattern so at some point I would expect the ALP to be in with a chance.

    Not sure if it was Antony Green or someone else but I once heard someone say that when a safe seat changes, the test of its future voting patterns was usually seen within two or three elections from the one it was lost at. In other words it would either return home or it would remain lost.

  11. Not on Labor’s campaign list. Compared to even Brunswick or Northcote I would guess its demographic is much younger and more diverse and hence Green heartland rather than unhappy Labor that might come back?


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